Western Kentucky sophomore T.J. Smith on facing Alabama: 'We're gonna freaking win this game'
Well, you can't accuse the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers of lacking for confidence heading into Saturday's game against No. 1 Alabama, not after sophomore T.J. Smith told reporters "we're gonna freaking win this game."
It's one thing for the head coach of a 40-point underdog to the nation's No. 1 team to call that spread "baloney" or say he "believes in destiny" where his team's chances are concerned. It's another for one of his players to straight-up predict that his team is about to pull off one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
But that's what Western Kentucky linebacker T.J. Smith has done, taking coach Willie Taggart's steely confidence to another level by telling Bowling Green Daily News reporter Chad Bishop Wednesday that the Hilltoppers were ready to take down Alabama.
"I’ll tell you what, we’re gonna play hard -- I’ll tell you what, we’re gonna freaking win this game," Smith said of Saturday's meeting with the Crimson Tide. "Truly, we got a great defense, great linebackers -- so watch this game, we’re gonna win."
Smith should rest assured that if the Hilltoppers come anywhere close to winning the game, people will be watching. But why would he be willing to make such a bold statement? The Hazel Green, Ala., native -- one of three interviewed by Bishop about returning to their home state -- said that he grew up an Auburn fan and always has rooted against the Tide.
"We really don’t like Alabama. Anything about Alabama," he said. "Dad, he didn’t like Alabama. Momma didn’t like Alabama, so I didn’t like Alabama."
Unfortunately for Smith, the truth about his comments is that they might make it just that much harder to actually make his prediction come true. The Hilltoppers' best chance of coming out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a win -- assuming that chance exists at all, an assumption many wouldn't make in the first place -- was to come in as below the radar as possible, catch the Tide napping, and ride the performance of their lives and a healthy dose of luck to the stunner. Now might have been a good time to try to pull it off, too; Nick Saban was so infuriated by the Tide's lackluster Wednesday practice he berated the media for its perceived role in his team's complacency and the "lack of respect" shown the Hilltoppers.
Taggart's comments might have pricked up a few ears in Tuscaloosa, though, and Smith's no doubt will as well. (That Smith is a sophomore backup who made one tackle in WKU's season-opening win over FCS Austin Peay -- and will now need the first-stringers to back up his talk for him -- might have his comments sit even less well with Taggart.) But in Smith's defense, it doesn't really matter what he says -- the Tide were and are 99.99 percent certain of rolling to victory regardless of what is or isn't on their bulletin board.
It's not often Western Kentucky players have the opportunity to say anything that might make waves outside of Bowling Green. Given that the actual on-field fallout from Smith's talk is likely to be negligible, can you really blame him for opening his mouth that extra bit wider?
Maybe not. But if the Tide have that now-notable 40-point spread in their sights and decide to keep the pedal down just long enough to surge past it, anyone who took the Hilltoppers to cover might have to accord some blame all the same.
For more of Taggart's Thursday comments to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd -- and why Dodd feels Taggart has outcoached Saban during this game week -- click here.
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